For Immediate Release
Contact: Ted Hearn
PITTSBURGH, Nov. 20, 2019 – ACA Connects President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement after the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed (H.R. 5035), the Television Viewer Protection Act, a successor bill to the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR):
“We thank the Committee for recognizing the benefits of extending the Federal Communications Commission’s good faith rules to retransmission consent negotiations between large broadcast stations groups and buying groups that represent small and medium sized pay-TV providers.
“Within the last year, the FCC has found that smaller operators pay retransmission consent fees that are more than 30 percent greater than the fees paid by larger operators. Encouraging large station groups to come to the table and negotiate with buying groups representing these smaller firms can help address this disparity and in turn provide some relief to consumers served by them.
“We’re pleased that the buying group provision in the bill adopted today includes a framework for providing good faith protections to buying groups. But we are disappointed in the metrics that limit the number of subscribers who can benefit and reduce the large station groups that are covered.
The Manager’s Amendment includes the following restrictions on buying groups that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission would not believe are necessary to promote a competitive marketplace, and therefore restrain trade in ways that harm consumers:
• Caps the number of subscribers of an MVPD eligible to participate in the buying group to 500,000 subscribers, excluding MVPDs that regularly participate in buying group deals;
• Limits the buying group from representing more than 25 percent of households in a single market of a large station group, excluding smaller MVPDs especially in smaller markets from participating in buying group deals;
• Arbitrarily restricts the number of large station groups that must negotiate with a buying group to only those with a national audience reach of more than 20 percent, which includes only 12 station groups. It means a broadcast station group like Disney with 8 stations is included, but other broadcast station groups like Hearst, which owns 32 full power stations, are excluded;
• Delays buying groups from taking advantage of the rules until next year; and
• Imposes other restrictions on buying groups with regard to their negotiations with broadcasters that are not obligations on buying groups with respect to their talks with cable programmers.
“We thank Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Republican Leader Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Oh.) and their staff for all of their hard work on this matter. We also thank Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif) for their leadership in initially proposing to extend the good faith rules to buying groups earlier this year as part of the Modern Television Act of 2019. We also appreciate the support of many other members of Congress on the Committee on both sides of the aisle for their support.
“We look forward to working with Senate Commerce Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Ranking Member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who are moving forward with their STELAR reauthorization, to ensure their bill includes a buying group provision to benefit all subscribers of small and medium sized cable operators.”
About ACA Connects: America’s Communications Association – Based in Pittsburgh, ACA Connects is a trade organization representing more than 700 smaller and medium-sized, independent companies that provide broadband, phone and video services to nearly 8 million customers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA Connects’ members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit: https://acaconnects.org